IamA Volunteer Australian Wildlife shelter. I've rehabilitated and raised penguins, koalas, kangaroos, wallabys, possums, echidnas, albatross, sugar gliders and many more AMA!
I'm a volunteer wildlife carer in Australia and run a licensed shelter that takes in all sorts of animals. I'm here with my son (pictured in proof photo), who said it would be a good idea for me to do this AMA, and that reddit would probably rather enjoy some of the quirky stories and interesting information we've both got.
As well as rehabilitating injured animals and raising orphaned ones we are also both wildlife rescuers and often get called out to relocate animals from populated areas back to the wild, or respond to animals that have been attacked by dogs, hit by cars, or found in a dire situation.
The shelter that I run is set up predominately to cater for orphaned and injured koalas and seabirds. For the koalas we have 4 outdoor enclosures with pseudo trees and fresh leaf. The babies start off being bottle fed special formula. They start off in the living room when tiny (what a lot of the pictures in the album show) in warm pouches, climbing small trees covered in sheep skin. They are then gradually taken outside and introduced to proper trees. Eventually they are left outside in the enclosure full time and gradually dehumanized. When they reach around 4.0kg's they are released at a suitable location.
Because we were getting a lot of sea birds, particularly penguins, we built a sea bird enclosure with a 6 meter pool. Foxes are a problem here so we had to go to extreme measures to keep them out.
Seabirds in care are generally fed pilchards (small fish that stink) - kilos of the stuff. Giant Petrels are the exception, they eat chickens (not live ones). When they are really hungry they eat two a day.
This album contains a lot of images of the various animals over the years, sorry about the quality of some of them! And the date stamp is wrong on most. The images are also property of me, and if you want to use them please ask. They album doesn't show every animal that's come through, but gives you a good idea.
Okay guys! Start asking! We'll be around for about 2 hours, and then come back later and reply to any that we missed!
EDIT 1: It's 1am in Australia! So bed time for us! Keep the questions coming and we'll answer them in the morning! Thanks for the questions so far!
EDIT 2: Back again! Going to take us a while to get through these! But they're all good questions! Keep em coming! Mum just got called out to a Kangaroo that got hit by a car, I'll keep answering the ones I can, and leave the ones I can't for her when she get's back.
EDIT 3: Mum is going to release some Koalas and will be back later tonight to answer the rest of the questions! Sorry for coming and going so much!
EDIT 4: I am back. There are a lot of questions re becoming a shelter or volunteering at one. I thought i would explain a bit more here. A wildlife shelter is only legal in Victoria if it is registered with Dept of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP). Shelters have a Code of Practice which we must abide by ie minimum sized enclosures, animals that are unable to be 100% rehabilitated and released must be euthanised etc. Shelters can have up to three foster carers under their licence and these foster carers, after a minimum period of time and with the appropriate experience can apply for their own shelter permit. A lot of people want to become foster carers because they feel they will get to do a lot of 'warm and fuzzy' stuff ie feeding babies. Our whole purpose is to prepare these animals for the wild. This means minimal contact with people other than primary carer. Serious dehumanisation in preparation for release. A lot of people lose interest when they realise that most of the time is spent preparing feeds, washing bottles, pouches, towels, raking yards, driving hundreds of kilometers and here is the kicker - approximately 85% of wildlife we deal with has to be put down.
If you really want to do it you will need family/spousal support because it puts a huge drain on relationships for lots of reasons. You dont get public holidays or weekends. They are the really busy times because everyone else is on holiday. The animals routine comes first so if you have time constraints this may not be for you. You never know what the day holds so dont get stressed out if tea doesnt make it to the table until 10.30pm.
Small children and wildlife dont mix well. Kids get excited around them (understandable they are so cool) and dont understand quiet and dont touch. And when the kids are that small, they really deserve to come before the animals.
Money. It will cost you heaps. There is no government funding for running shelters. There have been a serious of small grants available through DELWP. There is no guarantee your application will be successful or if there will be anymore. We all do this because we are passionate and want to make a difference. Some spend a lot of time trying to fund raise. I personally dont have the time to do that.
The reason I started and more importantly still do it is because all my life I have received so much enjoyment from nature and the flora and fauna I encounter. This is my small way of saying thank you, it has been such a privilege.
If you still want to do it, find a shelter that will take you on and try it. I personally wont take anyone unless they have done rescue work for 12 months.
Hope that answers some questions.